Do you know anyone who snores? Suffers from insomnia? Constant tiredness and fatigue? Chances are, that person is suffering from sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is the condition in which deep sleep is interrupted by continual disruptions in your breathing. In other words, you stop breathing while you sleep—sometimes for as long as a minute or more. When this happens your body responds by gasping for air to restart your breathing. These gasps for air are what we call snoring.
The dangers of sleep apnea
Sleep apnea is annoying. The noise of snoring has been keeping spouses awake for as long as anyone can remember (and longer). But it’s also disruptive to the one suffering from this condition. People with sleep apnea wake themselves up with the noise of their snoring, but even worse, the disruptions in your breathing take you out of the deepest, most restful state of sleep into a less restful state of sleep. So…since it is not uncommon for people with sleep apnea to have fifteen or more disruptions in their breathing per minute, you can do the math to figure out that sleep apnea and quality sleep do NOT go together.
Aside from the annoyance of sleep apnea, there are also dangers that come with this condition:
- Insomnia—leading to fatigue that results in decreased job performance, irritability, and decreased mental and emotional clarity
- Blood pressure problems
- Stress from being over-tired
- Death—yes, it happens. Not often, but once is too often.
How to treat sleep apnea
The first step in treating sleep apnea is to make sure you have sleep apnea. Diagnosing sleep apnea is done through a sleep study. In a sleep study you are hooked up to a machine that reads your breathing patterns, your muscle movements, and brain activity (among other things) while you sleep over a period of several hours. The results of these readings is then used to determine if you have sleep apnea and if so, the severity of the condition.
Once it has been determined that you are suffering from sleep apnea, you will be prescribed a cpap system. A cpap (abbreviation for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine delivers constant or continuous air to the nose by way of a nose mask (cpap mask) connected to a small motor using gentle pressure to force the air into your nose and lungs; making it impossible for you to stop breathing. So since you never stop breathing, you aren’t yanked out of the deep sleep until your body says it’s time to wake up.
The cpap machine
When cpap machines first came onto the scene they were made of semi-hard nose masks attached to a headgear the wearer attached to their forehead and face using an adjustable band or belt. Quite honestly they are a bit bulky and uncomfortable and don’t make it easy on side-sleepers. They also restrict the ability of the wearer to talk and make getting up in the night a hassle. Thankfully, however, cpap masks have developed and been refined.
Today’s cpap masks are made of silicone and gel; making them less restrictive, easier to put on and take off, much more comfortable, and better fitting. What’s more, they are latex-free—making it possible for literally anyone needing to manage their sleep apnea, stop their snoring, and get a better night’s sleep.